Upon their return from church Scout and Jem are shocked to find Aunt Alexandra waiting for them. It has been decided that whilst Atticus is busy with the trial she will help look after them. She treats Calpurnia much more like a servant than Atticus and the children. She is also determined to turn Scout, who is still a typical tomboy, into a young lady.
Dill suddenly reappears in Maycomb having run away from home. He has not been as happy with his new family situation as he thought. It is eventually decided that he can spend the rest of the summer at his Aunt Rachel’s.
However, the children soon discover that due to the trial their lives are about to dramatically change. The sheriff Heck Tate and a group of men arrive at the Finch house uneasy about any trouble that may arise as a result of the trial. The following night, Jem, Scout and Dill follow Atticus into town as they are worried about him. They find him reading outside Maycomb jail where he is approached by a gang of white men. Tom Robinson is inside the jail and the men want to lynch him at any cost,
You know what we want,” another man said. “Get aside from the door, Mr Finch. Atticus tries to send the children home but when Scout spots Walter Cunningham’s father amongst the gang and begins to chat to him, the men eventually leave. Tom is left in safety.
When the trial begins the locals of Maycomb treat it as a holiday and many people arrive to watch the proceedings. The children know Atticus would not want them to be in court but decide to sneak in anyway. Reverend Sykes gives them seats in the
blacks only area. The trial is presided over by Judge Taylor, a fair if rather unusual man and one who will tolerate no nonsense in his court.
During the break the children chat to Dolphus Raymond, a white man who is believed to be the local drunk and who is in a relationship with a black woman. However, the children discover he merely pretends to be a drunkard in order to make it easier for people to understand the choices he has made,
Some folks don’t–like the way I live.
Whilst being questioned, Bob Ewell, Mayella Ewell’s father, reveals himself to be an angry brute of a man who hates Atticus for supposedly humiliating him. From the evidence given it becomes obvious that Tom Robinson is not guilty of raping Mayella. It seems that in her loneliness Mayella tried to lead Tom on and was beaten by her father when he found out about her trying to flirt with a black man. However, the jury still find him guilty. When Atticus leaves the courthouse all of the black congregation stand as a mark of respect,
All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall, the Negroes were getting to their feet.
Jem is in tears when the verdict is revealed as he is forced to face for the first time the full injustice of the law. Atticus is moved when the black community leave food at his house as a way of thanking him for defending Tom Robinson. Bob Ewell, however, chooses to spit in his face.
Atticus reacts calmly and focuses instead on Tom Robinson’s appeal. Scout is disgusted to discover that women are not allowed to sit on a jury whilst Jem finally comes to the realisation that Boo Radley stays indoors because he actually wants to,
I think I’m beginning to understand why Boo Radley’s stayed shut up in the house all this time... it’s because he wants to stay inside.
Whilst she has been in Maycomb, Aunt Alexandra has been attending many missionary teas and finally it is time for her to host her own. Scout is forced into a dress for the occasion and she listens whilst the women talk about raising money for African children. The tea is interrupted by Atticus with the news that Tom has tried to escape and been killed. Scout is shocked but is forced to admire the way Aunt Alexandra and Miss Maudie cope with the news, finally realising there is more to being a woman than she had anticipated.